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Local Muslims Hurt by Lowe's Ad Controversy

They say the home-improvement chain's decision to pull an ad from a reality TV show that followed several Muslim families reinforces stereotypes.

 

When Lowe’s home improvement chain bowed to pressure from a Florida conservative group last week and pulled ads from the television show All-American Muslim, it endorsed one of the more pernicious stereotypes in our culture—that Muslim is synonymous with terrorist.

The controversy began last week when the Florida Family Association, a small activist organization, called for a boycott because the show distorts “the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values” (The New York Times).

Letters and emails to sponsors followed and Lowe’s—and later Kayak, a business travel website—pulled its ads.

"Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lightning rod for many of those views," the company said in statement (NJ.com). "As a result we did pull our advertising on this program. We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance."

The cancelation of the ad was met with shock and disappointment by local Muslims.

Heba Macksoud, who lives in South Brunswick and is a member of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey, said she was hurt by Lowe’s decision and the limited comment the home-improvement chain has made on the issue.

“It's basically like, ‘we really don't care what our customers think,” Macksoud said in an email. “I just purchased thousands of dollars in appliances during Black Friday from Lowe's but that will be the last time I ever shop there again. I know several Muslims, throughout the country, who feel the same exact way -- it's a huge mistake for them because Muslim Americans, who number over 7 million in the U.S., are one of the most affluent and educated groups in the United States.”

Altogether, she says, Muslims spend about $200 billion in the United States annually.

Macksoud’s friend, Azra Baig, is working with friends to make that economic power felt, by encouraging people to cut up their Lowe’s credit cards and stop shopping at the home-improvement store “until they apologize.” Baig, who lives in South Brunswick and is a member of the , said there also has been discussion of a protest at the West Windsor Lowe’s store, similar to the one last week planned for the Lowe’s in Paterson.

Sohaib N. Sultan, Muslim life coordinator and chaplain at Princeton University, said it was “a sad day in America when a well-established corporation caves into pressure from ignorant bigots.”

“One of the responsibilities that come with success, I believe, is to stand up against hatred and injustice rather than endorse it,” he said via email. “There are thousands of Muslims in the United States who have been loyal Lowe's customers and have contributed to its success. Lowe's position on this matter has been very disappointing to say the least.”

The Muslims I talked with told me Lowe’s decision was a tacit endorsement of the kind of anti-Muslim bias that remains far too prevalent in our society.

“The stereotype is that we are terrorists,” Baig said. “We are average Americans going through the same struggles as any American, working hard, providing for our families.”

Sultan said the argument made by the Florida Family Association—“the idea that a fair portrayal of Muslims must include terrorists and extremists”—creates a false balance and “is the most bigoted thing I've heard in a while, even in this current atmosphere of Islamophobia.”

Macksoud agreed. Assuming all Muslims are terrorists is as logical as assuming that all Christians are molesters because of a small number of Roman Catholic priests have molested boys or that all African-Americans are criminals because they make up a majority of inmates in America’s jails—which is absurd.

Sultan makes the same argument.

“It is like saying that portrayals of Christians ought to include abortion clinic bombers or the like in order to be fair,” he said. “It’s just a ridiculous argument that is based in complete ignorance. It's an argument that seeks to divide people based on our lowest common denominators, rather than untie people based on our highest common values.” 

The stereotyping of Muslims in this manner, he said, contradicts the inclusive narrative that Americans offer about the nation and “contributes to a growing culture of hostility against Islam and Muslims in this country.” This “threatens some of our core values as a nation—pluralism and religious freedom.” It drives a wedge between Muslims and the rest of the nation, and this kind of “fear-mongering causes psychological harm, especially among youth, in a community that is already under a lot of scrutiny and pressure.“ 

The timing of the controversy is interesting, considering the attempts by Irish-Americans to bar 19th-century illustrator Thomas Nast from the New Jersey Hall of Fame because of anti-Irish illustrations (NJ.com). The Irish were seen then as dangerous invaders and a threat to American values—a charge that has been made against Catholics, Jews, Germans, Asians and now Muslims and Latinos.

In each case, the prevailing view was built on a distorted portrayal of the targeted community. That’s certainly the case with the prevailing anti-Muslim stereotypes.

“We are highly educated and doing well,” Baig said of New Jersey Muslims. “We are volunteering. We are part of the community. We love our neighbors.

“Unfortunately, these people in Florida want to promote that Muslims are not the average American,” she added. “They don’t want Islam or Muslims to look good in any way. They want to spread fear.”

Macksoud said that, having been targeted by bias in the past, it strengthened her resolve not to tolerate racist jokes or bigoted comments—even from people she knows.

“Hate is a very dangerous emotion and our society needs to learn how to stop seeing those with different religious identities as alien and threatening,” she said. “Today it’s Muslims, tomorrow it could be anyone—even you! In the end, our shared humanity should come first.”

Winston December 22, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Hank your facts are just wrong. The Musilms are making an issue where there is no issue. Although this is an opinion piece you must be held accountable for facts. From the Charlotte Observer "The decision was absolutely not, despite what's been reported in the media, influenced by any one group," said Lowe's vice president of marketing Tom Lamb. He said that the decision to stop advertising on the show had been made before the FFA emailed Lowe's CEO Robert Niblock.  On the morning of Monday, Dec. 5, Ahearn said that a member of Lowe's social media team brought negative chatter about the show to management's attention that was appearing on social networks. The decision to pull the ads was made shortly afterwards, Ahearn said, and communicated to TLC through Lowe's ad-buying agency. That afternoon, Ahearn said, Lowe's CEO received an email from the FFA about "All-American Muslim." The company responded with a form letter confirming the ads had already been pulled, Ahearn said. It was the vast amount of negative social media that led this private company concerned about their brand to pull the ads. Your  opinion post seems to illustrate that the Muslim community is trying to once again play the role of the "victim" when they are not. In fact Lowes is the real victim and I plan on spending more money with this year!
herdzcatz December 22, 2011 at 04:21 PM
Having lived with a Palestinian convert from Islam to Christianity for 7 years in the 80s, I can assure readers that even back then the fear and anxiety that prevailed in this woman concerning being "found out" back in Jordan and Nablus by Muslim family members consumed her. Why would that be? If Islam was so peaceful and tolerant, she should have made the transition without so much as a hiccup. Wake up, America!
Yoma Ma December 22, 2011 at 05:23 PM
For one I am sickened by how the church handled the molestation cases and how they were protected and it disgusts me. But to compare that to the reality and teachings of Islam is a total and complete idiotic statement. All religions have issues, but can anyone name any other religion or cult that breeds the hatred, violence, murder, intolerance for anything not Muslim or Silamic? train the youth of hatred and demand the extinction of an entire race based on their beliefs? Let alone the terrorism they love to teach and use as intimidation, or the honor KILLINGS of family members? Sorry but read up on europe and their problems with the Muslim population they were kind enough to bring into their countires. But I guess the UK, Spain, Germany, france, Norway, Sweden, Greece, Italy and all others that are now waking up to the reality and problems caused by this cult and the impact on its country. I guess you can refer to all these countries as far right extremists and bigots as well? I think not and we should be aware of the lessons learned in Europe and elsewhere such as Australia and New Zealand as well. I hate nobody but I can tell you this, I DO NOT AND WILL NOT trust Islam in any way shape or form and no matter how much the media and white house want to prop up Islam with lies I will not believe them.
Joe R December 22, 2011 at 06:36 PM
Yoma Ma, once we accept your premise about Islam and Muslims, then what happens? Are you suggesting that all Muslims living in the US should be jailed or interned? Should the Muslim religion be banned in the US? Should the building of Mosques be banned in the US? What say you? You seem to be saying that Islam is a dangerous hateful religion and that all or most Muslims are dangerous terrorists. Once you establish that premise, then everything goes. Are you suggesting the interning of the Muslims the way we did to the Japanese Americans during WWII? Just wondering? Are you saying that all Muslims should be under surveillance by the FBI?
Winston December 22, 2011 at 06:56 PM
JoeR why the left wing personal attack against someone voicing their opinion? It is is dispicilble.
I am RIGHT December 22, 2011 at 08:34 PM
Read the poll results - The vast majority don't care.
Patrick December 22, 2011 at 09:32 PM
Winston in the spirit of the holidays... Have a great one. Cheers to you!
Mark Z December 22, 2011 at 10:05 PM
Actually Winston Joe is also stating his opinion. I happen to agree with some of what he is saying. @Yoma Ma seems to be spewing a bunch of bigoted paranoia. If he wants to bring up Europe, then what about Andre Brevik? Is he representative of all Christians because he claimed his actions were justified by Christianity? Of course not! Christians argue that because his violent actions contradicted Christianity, He is not a Christian at all. Well the Muslims are saying the same thing! And Muslims condemn the acts of 9/11 just as my fellow Christians and Jews etc do. But to hold them responsible for the actions of a few they never even met is preposterous!! Are you willing to apologize and take responsibility for this Brevik fellow? I sure as hell am not! It is just as absurd to expect that out of Musims!
Mark Z December 22, 2011 at 10:39 PM
the vast majority who have voted on this little poll may not care but that poll doesn't speak for the entire country
I am RIGHT December 23, 2011 at 04:10 AM
FACT - The vast majority don't care.
Sugi December 23, 2011 at 03:56 PM
Why muslims are forgetting that it is also Lowe's right to choose. They made a choice Don't pressure them to back out. If Islam is normal then where is the need to have special TV show to prove that. Why there are no shows for 'Normal American Buddhist family', 'Normal American Hindu family', 'Normal American Sikh family', 'Normal American Bahaya Family'. And here is warning to you Lowe's. If you advertise on Muslim show I will buy from your store only if you advertise on Buddhist show also. (I might have to explain for many readers that last line is a joke) Sugi
Sugi December 23, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Yoma Ma, I agree with you on "I hate nobody but I can tell you this, I DO NOT AND WILL NOT trust Islam in any way shape or form". Islam concept needs complete overhaul. Recently I was reading in media how Kim Jon Il can fool 25 Million North Koreans for 15 years into believing him as demigod. But how about here are 1.5 Billion Muslims believing mohammad as messenger of God for 1500 Years. Who needs brain check you do the math.
Winston December 23, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Sorry Hank, your opinion piece on the Muslim "Jersey Shore" ignores much bigger and deadly issues. I have a suggestion....why not write a piece on the escalation of violence against Arab Christians caused by the uprising of radical islam in Libya, Egypt and numerous other countries. To date no American Muslim group (not even our own CJIS) has spoken out against these atrocities. Instead the march on lowes refelcts their deep concern over a show featuring the Muslim versions of Snookie and JWow.
Judy Walters December 23, 2011 at 11:34 PM
Have any of the people leaving these harsh,negative comments about All American Muslim actually watched the show? I haven't missed an episode. It is very well done.
LarryLinn December 23, 2011 at 11:51 PM
Hello Home Depot.
Winston December 24, 2011 at 03:26 AM
Support Lowes .an American company employing American employees....say no to this Muslim Jersey Shore nonsense!
Winston December 24, 2011 at 03:30 AM
Oh Judy/Frank/Bernie ...... there isn't an anti-American anti-Christian cause you will not support!
Winston December 27, 2011 at 03:40 AM
Should anyone care about a TV show when Muslim violence against Christians is at an all time high... The people of Nigeria faced new uncertainty today after Christmas Day attacks on Christian churches that killed at least 39 people. The worst attack came just outside the capital, where 35 were killed. Four more died in the city of Jos, and, overall, more than 50 were wounded.

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